Elec­tion Day had pos­i­tive out­comes

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - SUE CARL­TON scarl­ton@tam­pabay.com

Post elec­tion, we are cel­e­brat­ing our vic­to­ries and lick­ing our wounds af­ter that wild and par­ti­san ride. So how about some largely pos­i­tive take­aways from Tues­day?

Turns out we ac­tu­ally do care about trans­porta­tion. Af­ter years of fail­ing to pass a sales tax to im­prove how we get around — a big road­block to be­ing ev­ery­thing Tampa Bay could be — Hills­bor­ough County vot­ers said yes to an ex­tra penny tax for im­proved bus ser­vice and roads, re­lief from traf­fic jams, safer walk­ing and bik­ing and ex­panded pub­lic tran­sit.

This was no small ask. It puts us in the top tier for sales tax in the state and re­quires us to trust politi­cians to spend wisely. So maybe the en­thu­si­as­tic, whirl­wind cam­paign built the groundswell. Or maybe those anti-rail troglodytes who show up with their signs but no so­lu­tions couldn’t yell boon­dog­gle loud enough to drown out the drum­beat that we need this. Hey Pinel­las County — you lis­ten­ing?

We also care about kids sweat­ing in school. Maybe it was the ut­ter sim­plic­ity of the prob­lem: Hills­bor­ough school build­ings are old and se­ri­ously be­hind in main­te­nance. This year stu­dents are sweat­ing through classes, with more than half of our schools re­port­ing AC prob­lems the first day alone.

It’s easy to get vot­ers be­hind giv­ing kids an en­vi­ron­ment they can learn in. It’s harder to per­suade them to put their trust in school lead­ers who have at times been, well, less than lead­erly.

Clearly, vot­ers came out on the side of stu­dents on this one, ap­prov­ing a half-cent sales tax. No­tably, that’s twice Hills­bor­ough voted to up taxes for the greater good.

Dogs, too. Enough al­ready with the ar­chaic, some­times cruel prac­tice of grey­hound rac­ing. By 2020, Florida vot­ers want it gone.

And fair­ness, even for felons: If you had a felony record in Florida, it didn’t mat­ter if you had done your time and com­pleted your sen­tence in­clud­ing pro­ba­tion and fines. Your right to vote — some­thing that would go a long way to­ward mak­ing you a part of your com­mu­nity again and less likely to land back in jail — wasn’t com­ing back any time soon. You couldn’t even ask for five years, and then they could tell you no with­out telling you why, which they did.

Sound fair to you?

Florida vot­ers gave that a re­sound­ing no with more than 64 per­cent vot­ing for au­to­matic restora­tion of rights ex­cept for felons con­victed of mur­der and sex crimes. That’s about 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple who will get to par­tic­i­pate again. Fair enough, vot­ers said.

Nope, and nope: Joe Kot­vas, a for­mer Hills­bor­ough com­mis­sioner im­pris­oned in a 1980s bribery scan­dal now run­ning as a no-party can­di­date, failed to make a dent in sup­port for Mariella Smith, the Demo­crat who hand-

ily beat long­time Repub­li­can Com­mis­sioner Vic­tor Crist. And, big ouch there.

In other news, county judge can­di­date Eilam Michael Isaak ran as Michael Isaak be­cause he said he didn’t want vot­ers to dis­crim­i­nate against him be­cause of the “eth­nic­ity” of his name. His cam­paign lit­er­a­ture said he “at­tends” con­ser­va­tive Idlewild Bap­tist, though his full page ad in the Jewish Press of Tampa noted his many Jewish sup­port­ers and his par­ents’ syn­a­gogue and did not men­tion Idlewild.

Vot­ers went with can­di­date Jack Gut­man.

Now: If some­one could just ex­plain the crazy way we voted on those amend­ments.

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